The Senate’s health care bill has been released in “discussion draft” form, and it confirms our worst fears – if this bill passes into law as it’s currently written, the core structures of ObamaCare will remain in place, and Republicans will have blown their mandate to fix the nation’s ailing health care delivery system. It’s no wonder four conservative senators – Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah), and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' GOP chairman warns of ISIS's ‘cyber caliphate’ Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-Wis.) – didn’t even wait a day before announcing they could not vote for it in its present form. The question now is, will the rest of the Senate GOP Conference agree to amend the draft to satisfy their concerns, or will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE fail to keep the campaign promise that won him the majority in the first place?

First, the good news. Like the House’s bill, the Senate bill effectively repeals both ObamaCare’s individual mandate and employer mandate. 

Also like the House bill, the Senate bill repeals almost all of ObamaCare’s new and higher taxes, leaving only the “Cadillac Tax” in place.

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Now, the bad news. And where better to begin than with the assessment of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of ObamaCare, who famously said ObamaCare was passed because the American people were too “stupid” to understand it?” Gloated Gruber on Thursday morning, following the draft’s release, “This is no longer an ObamaCare repeal bill. That’s good.”

 

It’s not an ObamaCare repeal bill because it leaves in place ObamaCare’s core insurance regulations that prevent health insurance companies from pricing policies based on individual risk assessments. Instead, unlike the House bill – which at least offers states the ability to ask for a waiver of these provisions – the Senate bill leaves in place so-called “Community Rating,” the single biggest driver of health insurance premium increases.

Nor does the draft bill make health care more affordable. Instead, it simply throws more taxpayer dollars at the problem, to subsidize increasingly unaffordable health care.

Worse, it relies on elected officials who haven’t even been elected yet to do the work current elected officials don’t want to do. Regarding ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the Senate bill would keep the expansion alive until 2024. We’ll have three new Congresses elected before then, and maybe even a new president – and, as we all know, no Congress can bind a future Congress. There’s no guarantee that a phase-out passed this year legislated to begin seven years from now will ever take place; in fact, the smart money would bet that the phase-out would not occur seven years down the road, or ever.

Senate Republicans should be aware: Passing this bill will leave the core elements of ObamaCare’s architecture in place, and will do nothing to reduce costs and prices. But responsibility for a failing healthcare system will shift in the public’s eyes from the Democrats who enacted ObamaCare to the Republicans who changed it without repealing it.

Paul, Cruz, Lee and Johnson understand this, and are working to improve the bill.

Cruz, for instance, has circulated among his colleagues a number of potential amendments. One suggests adding “a provision that says that any insurance company that offers at least one plan that meets the [insurance company] mandates can also sell any other plans that consumers desire.” That would greatly increase choice and competition, and would help lead to lower premium prices.

A second possible Cruz amendment would “enact ‘consensus’ market reforms,” including: “(a) allowing consumer to purchase insurance across state lines; (b) expanding association health plans, so those in individual or small group markets can join together in large groups to get lower prices; (c) allowing people to pay health insurance premiums from health savings accounts, which lowers premiums immediately by letting them be purchased with pre-tax dollars; and (d) giving a bonus in federal Medicaid matching funds to states that enact caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.”

If these four Republicans can amend the discussion draft substantially, the millions of Americans who worked their hind ends off to give Senate Republicans the majority may be able to support the bill. But if their amendments fall on deaf ears, they would be justified – and the rest of their Senate GOP colleagues would be wise – to vote against this turkey of a bill and go back to the drawing board. Better not to pass anything at all than to pass a bill that fails to repeal ObamaCare’s core elements, but shifts blame to Republicans for the ongoing mess.

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.